The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Witching Hour: Creative Tools for the Apocalypse @ Iowa City Public Library 10/02

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Beatrice Thomas’s presentation on what the end of the world looks like, and what we are going to do about it, illuminates the anxiety and suffering that our society feels in the face of violence, political unrest, and sensory deprivation.

Thomas describes herself as “an arts & equity consultant, creative producer, multi-disciplinary artist and social justice drag queen” dedicated to bringing a sense of humor and purpose to the spaces she engages in. Hailing from the Bay Area, Thomas emphasized her particular dedication to the LGBT community in arts and elevating the voices of those who have less privilege and visibility. Given with uproarious humor and the confidence of a born performer, Thomas opened her presentation with a look into her life as a social justice drag queen. This ability to confidently wear one’s own skin and also make themselves digestible by diverse audiences was, to me, unique to Thomas’s presentation and stage presence. The humor in her voice, body language, and content all made the room feel relaxed and open to the ideas she was presenting.

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These ideas mixed Thomas’s personal lived experiences with commentary on societal developments, particularly after the 2016 election. Thomas introduced the ideal of social practice, an “art medium that involves everything,” which Thomas was drawn to because of her extensive background in a variety of art mediums including sculpture and theater. For her, it was a natural complement to her desire to turn her creative work into paid work, a reality that many of us will have to come to terms with. As a former municipal arts administrator, Thomas felt that the change she wanted to see and the work she wanted to do wasn’t possible within a bureaucracy, and left to pursue her life goals elsewhere.

At this point in the presentation, Thomas began to bring in the reality of our political landscape as she was one of the many people who acutely felt the consequences of the change in White House administration. A sense of safety and security that anyone is capable of being lulled by, disappeared for her and for many others. It is this reality that Thomas and artists and activists like her are meant to guide us through and nourish us. To Thomas, the apocalypse had many visible tenets from the tide pod phenomena to the violent clashes between polarized groups of people. Thomas pointed out that our society is one that suffers from desensitization and the desire for immediate gratification which, cannot be sustainable. Instead, Thomas proposes that we need investment and dedication to our communities.

By starting with ourselves and identifying our values, priorities, and the work that we are able to do, Thomas gave tangible points for us to focus on in a world that can be confusing and overwhelming. The best advice I took from Thomas’s presentation was to identify what you have to easily give (what you can authentically provide) and can give in abundance. The most valuable thing I took from Thomas’s presentation was that there is something to do about the world we live in. There is no place too small to start or action that will go unnoticed. We must reclaim our integrity, embrace each other, and find beauty where we can if we are to survive the apocalypse. Follow Beatrice Thomas on Twitter to keep up with the world of artist-activists.

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